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from the October 2017 issue

Please Enter Destination

Listen to Please Enter Destination, produced by Play for Voices.
 

 

CHARACTERS

HELENA: A young woman trying to find her place in the world—a place that, perhaps, doesn’t even exist. She is very straightforward and may seem nagging at times; in fact, though, she is a woman fighting against the decline of the world she lives in.

HONZA: A morally weak, rather narrow-minded young man. He accepts the world as it is, without question.

GPS DEVICE: A multi-faceted character. The voice of the device is neutral, able to adopt various tones—sexy, childish, or anything and everything in between.

DEVIL: A rather boorish, but very jovial devil (please see note below).

ANNOUNCER: A serious news announcer.

 

Translator's note on the devil:

The devil in the play is not the Devil himself, i.e. a representation of ultimate evil. Rather, he is a minor demon, one of many, with many human traits and faults (these little demons or devils are part of Czech folklore). In the play, the devil has the role of the ‘shoulder devil’, the characters’ bad conscience.

 
SCENE 1: EXT. UP IN THE AIR

(A feeling of being in an unreal place. Instrumental music in the background and two contrasting sounds in the foreground, for example, a comet flying through space and a kitchen sound, e.g. a handful of beans thrown into a pot.)

HELENA: (Reads) The curious photograph was taken during flight STS 51-I in August 1985.

Please see image 2. (Laughs) The image shows us a circular object in the middle of a regular cumulus cloud—a collapsing cumulus surrounded by a cumulonimbus. This “donut cloud,” as the phenomenon is called, resembles a plate of delicious soup with steam rising out of it. Or, perhaps, the doors of Heaven  see right before falling asleep.

HONZA: (Playful, intimate) Hello there, my little cumulus!

HELENA: Nah, I’m a cumulonimbus. You’re a cumulus-tsumulus.

HONZA: Oh, am I?

HELENA: Well, you surround me, not the other way around.

HONZA: I wouldn’t be so sure about that. Really?

HELENA: Uh-uh.

(Both sing to the tune of "Another Weekend Is Over.")

HONZA: (Sings) Another weekend is over . . .

HELENA: (Sings) A donut cloud has come and gone . . .

HONZA: (Sings) Another weekend is over . . .

HELENA: (Sings) Next week all the clouds’ll move on. Something wonderful’s happened . . .

HONZA: It’s as cloudy as can be! Another weekend is over . . .

HELENA: And he told me he liked me.

HONZA: I really, really, really like you.

HELENA: Gee, thanks. But what if that’s not enough?

(Sound of clouds moving)

 

SCENE 2. INT. INSIDE A CAR

(Sounds of car starting up [Engine revving, wipers, etc.] The pressing of buttons on a GPS navigation device.)

HONZA: Please enter destination. OK. So, um . . . We’re going to Kolín, so . . . K – O – L – I – N. Now, how do you make it talk? Oh, here, it’s right over here . . .

GPS DEVICE: Calculating route.

HONZA: Great. Let’s go, then.

(Sound of car starting to move)

HELENA: Could you please turn on the radio?

(Music playing, “Another Weekend is Over". Sound of Helena singing along)

HELENA: (Happily) Just one brief smile,

                  oh, it was pure bliss.

                  And then in the shadows

                  he gave me a real kiss.

                  The world is changing,

                  I’m head over heels in love,

                  I’m down with spring fever—

                  and I just can’t get enough!

GPS DEVICE: Please keep to your left.

(Sound of radio news in the background.)

HELENA: Shhh! I want to listen.

ANNOUNCER: Bringing you the latest news, this is Czech Radio news at three. The Chamber of Deputies has passed a bill on governmental employment agencies, closing them down in the near future. The Russian spacecraft Soyuz was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Its crew will now spend five months of comprehensive training at the ISS. Lobbyist Filip Koloušek has been released from custody. His participation in the property sales, local planning, and limited companies in Prague, the Capital, could not be proved. The police claim that records of Koloušek’s intercepted phone calls have disappeared, including all the backups.

HELENA: Well, well, well. Quite a coincidence, isn’t it?

ANNOUNCER: The bill on governmental employment agencies was submitted by Deputy Alois Ponákl, who claims they are unprofitable.

HELENA: I think I might have just lost my job . . . (Ironically) Lovely. Just lovely.

ANNOUNCER: The budget that has, up until now, been used to run the employment agencies, and welfare benefits, will now be reallocated. It will be used for deputy salaries and for the New Year’s firework display.

HELENA & HONZA: (Surprised) They gotta be kidding, right?

ANNOUNCER: Deputy Ponákl has also proposed to close down libraries, theaters, and museums.  “The efficiency of these establishments cannot be measured,” claims the deputy. “Personally, I think they’re nothing but another place for loiterers and people with just too much time on their hands.” Following his statement, Ponákl excused himself to catch a plane bound for the Canary Islands, where he was due for a state visit.

HELENA & HONZA: (Surprised) What?

HELENA: Just . . .  Just turn it down, please.

(Sound of radio being turned down)

HONZA: Look, it’s not like it’s sure yet, right? Things’ll work out, one way or the other. They always do.

HELENA: Chaos reigns, said the fox. (Long silence)

HONZA: Hellie. (Pause.) Hellie, come on. Talk to me.

HELENA: You know, everyone keeps going on and on about how the world is coming to an end, blah blah blah, right? But you know what? It’s already happening. I mean, the end of the world is. Only it’s not like everything’s exploding, boom, just like that. You know? It’s not like that in a split second, the world will be gone. Nah, the world is coming to an end slowly and gently. Little by little, everything is going to die off, and it’ll be long, and it’ll be tiring and it’ll be disgusting. And the first thing to go down the drain will be human values and human intelligence.

HONZA: You do realize this has been going on since the dinosaurs, right?

HELENA: No. No, I don’t realize it. (Pause) Welcome to cloud cuckoo land.

GPS DEVICE: In 100 meters, please turn left.

HONZA: Damn! I missed our turn.

GPS DEVICE: Please keep to your left.

HELENA: Why'd you get this talking piece of junk, anyway?

GPS DEVICE: Please keep to your left.

HELENA: The world is coming to an end.

HONZA: Hellie, come on. Look, it’s Sunday and we’re going out for a ride. For one second, could you at least try to think about something other than the world falling apart? We never talk about anything else, for Christ’s sake. For once, at least, can’t we just chill and relax and enjoy ourselves?

HELENA: Oh, of course we can, dear. It’s just that it’s a bit of shock, you know. Losing your job and all that? Just, you know . . . Try to put yourself in my shoes. What would it be like, not being able to go back to work tomorrow?

HONZA: It would be wonderful. I dream about not having to go to work.

GPS DEVICE: Re . . .  Reca . . .  Recalculating. Please enter destination. Destination: Kozojedy.

HONZA: That said, our GPS lady has probably gone a bit bonkers.

(Sound of Honza hitting the GPS device)

HONZA: That should do it. It should work now.

HELENA: Honza, I’m worried.

HONZA: What, about the weather? No rain today, I checked.

HELENA: I couldn’t care less about the weather. I’m worried I won’t be able to find a job. That I’ll have to stay at home and we’ll have to live on one income, and that I’ll have to suck it up and that I’ll absolutely hate it. I don’t really know what to do.

HONZA: Look, hon. Calm down. You just found out you’re gonna lose your job. You have to come to terms with the news, right? Give it some time, that’s all. I get it that right now you might be feeling a bit like a loser, but . . .

GPS DEVICE: Please enter the roundabout. Then take the second exit.

HONZA: But we’ll figure something out. We’ll get you a job, don’t you worry.

HELENA: Do you think that maybe we could call off today’s visit? I’m really not in the mood for Lukáš and his blabbing.

HONZA: Let’s just have lunch with them. Then we can tell them we’ve already got plans for the afternoon.

HELENA: It’s just that once you and Lukáš get going about nuclear weapons, or the future of the Euro, or anything along those lines, there’s no end to it . . .  You’ll bore me to death. And Eliška won’t be any help either. I mean, she doesn’t talk about anything other than breastfeeding anymore.

HONZA: Not happening this time, I promise. Now, you really need to get some rest. Close your eyes and try to clear your thoughts, OK? Do some cloud-watching. Imagine it’s just the two of us, riding the clouds through the sky.

 

SCENE 3. EXT. UP IN THE AIR

HELENA: (Sings) I’m falling asleep, my ship’s heading out toward the sea . . .  And I’m climbing a rope into heaven. There I’ll sit upon a cloud and tell myself that yes, this is really, really, really me.

HONZA: (Reading from a cloud atlas) A cumulus cloud will usually be isolated, forming a massive, sharply defined mound, and developing upward in the form of puffs, heaps, or towers. The uppermost part of a cumulus will often resemble a cauliflower. Those parts that reflect the light of the sun will usually be a bright white color, while the almost horizontal base of the cloud will remain dark.

HELENA: There you are. All accumulated.

HONZA: What about you?

HELENA: I’m accumulonimbutated.

HONZA:  Seen any ice crystals down this way, ma’am? I’m afraid I might’ve lost track of them.

HELENA: Quite large, weren’t they? And a big group, right?

HONZA: They’re about a hundredth of a millimeter around the waist. Lovely kids, ain’t they?

HELENA: Um, didn’t see them, sorry. A crested cloud’s passed by and turned everything upside down.

(A quick cut to)

 

SCENE 4. INT. INSIDE THE CAR

(Car sounds. Once in a while the song, “Another Weekend Is Over” Comes on the radio.)

GPS DEVICE: Your destination is is is is . . . (Repeats until Honza hits it.)

HELENA: Can’t you do something about it?

HONZA: About what? About the world?

HELENA: Well, that too. But maybe you could start with the GPS device. It’s really starting to get on my nerves.

HONZA:  And what exactly about it is getting on your nerves, my dear? (Hits the GPS device)

HELENA: Well, the fact that the lady inside the box is so obviously broken. Fix the thing or get rid of it or whatever. What did I tell you about wasting money on stupid gadgets? Can’t we just get a map and find the way ourselves? (Upset, but because she lost her job.)

HONZA: Calm down, Hellie.

HELENA: (Pause) Um, Honza. I really don’t feel all that well. I’m really not sure I can handle Lukáš and Eliška today. You do realize they don’t actually care about us, right? They just need some people inside their large, beautiful, rustic home. Actors on a stage, you know? In a play set in the eighteenth century. Moving about the mansion, sitting on the stone steps leading up to the attic and admiring the seventeenth-century well with its lovely winch. And it’s all historical, of course.

HONZA: You’re being unfair. Lukáš is a friend.

HELENA: Yeah? How so? I mean, how do you know he’s a friend? All he does is brag and talk about himself.

HONZA: He’s helped me out in the past. Look, Helena, why don’t we just talk to them for an hour or so, about life and stuff. And then we can go home.

HELENA: When I’m in a good mood, I can deal with them all right. But right now, I’m really just ready to call it a day.

HONZA: Cheer up! When we get back, you can relax in the tub and I’ll fix us something to eat. Why don’t you focus on that?

HELENA: Just . . .  Stop talking, OK?

HONZA:  But isn’t that what you’ve always wanted? A man who takes care of you?

HELENA: Yeah. When your wishes come true, it’s actually really scary.

HONZA: Calm down, Hellie! Listen: say whatever you need to say, as long as it makes you feel better. Get the aggression out of your system. I promise I won’t take any offense. Any at all, not even a little bit.

HELENA: The world is coming to an end, and so is manhood. And all those dynamic, multifunctional women are watching, no idea what to do, what to say . . .  You know, we should visit the ruins of some old building. There’s bound to be some around here and it’ll go well with the mood.

HONZA: Where the hell are we, anyway?!

GPS DEVICE: Recalculating route. Recalculating. Recalculating.

HELENA: Can we please just go home? I really can’t deal with your gadgets right now.

HONZA: Helena!

HELENA: What’s the matter? Didn’t I just hear you say that you won’t take offense?

HONZA: Yeah, but you’re being unreasonable.

HELENA: For the last time, can we please go back? Let’s just take the nearest exit. Look, this one will take us to Šestajovice.

HONZA: Why on earth would we want to go to there? No, I won’t leave the highway until this stupid cow tells me to.

HELENA: Use your brain, for God’s sake. Look, there’s a sign right over there. It says that Kolín is straight ahead.

HONZA: I can wait. I’ve got all the time in the world.

GPS DEVICE: In one hundred meters, leave the highway. Take the exit on your right.

HONZA: See?

HELENA: Whatever. If you trust some weirdo lady powered by the universe more than your partner, well, that’s fine by me.

HONZA: Trust has nothing to do with it. This weirdo woman of yours has only one purpose to her existence: to navigate. So why shouldn’t I make use of it?

HELENA: That purpose used to be mine, you know? Now what am I supposed to do? Look, this is rubbish. We need to talk.

HONZA: Not this again.

HELENA: You’ve changed a lot, Honza. You used to fight for things. And now, now you’d rather I relax in the tub while you fix us dinner.

HONZA: Let’s not fight. In fact, let’s not even talk until we reach Kolín. From now on, the only person doing any talking will be the GPS device. That OK with you?

GPS DEVICE: I can see you’re afraid to talk about your future.

HONZA: Cut it out, Helena! I’m trying to drive here!

HELENA: It wasn’t me! I didn’t say anything! It was the GPS device.

HONZA: Yeah, right. It’s an app. It doesn’t join in conversations. What a lame excuse.

GPS DEVICE: Intersection coming up. Turn left for Udderville, a horror of a town to live in. Turn right for Skiddytown . . .  Which is probably even worse.

HONZA: What the . . . ? What’s wrong with it?

HELENA: I had no idea you could make it act all conspiring.

HONZA: Weird. I bought the most expensive model. It’s supposed to be compatible with everything.

(Silence, except for car sounds and radio in the background.)

HONZA:  A penny for your thoughts?

HELENA: I just realized that my boss has actually been going on and on about how they might close us down for ages. I just never thought it could actually happen, you know? At work, it was all part of a game—always hearing they’re gonna close us down, always working in makeshift conditions . . .  I just thought that working for a governmental organization meant it was here to stay. That nothing could go wrong.

HONZA: In this country, there’s only one thing certain: Utopia.

HELENA: It’s not just that I’ve been fired, you know? I’ll find something. It’s a matter of principle. This country is falling apart and we’re all part of it. For instance, I personally am still pretty mad at you for helping those Americans crack those bank accounts. I bet you’re still doing it, anyway. Even though I’ve told you to stop, a thousand times. But no, you just won’t listen.

HONZA: It was just a one-time gig, and a long time ago. I had no cash, I was under pressure and I lost my head. It was just that one time. I felt awful, so I told you about it and that was the end of it.

HELENA: Only that one time, huh?

HONZA: OK, so then I also showed Aleš how to do it. But I didn’t do anything myself . . .  I just showed Aleš.

HELENA: (Sarcastically) Wow, how generous of you. You think that doesn’t count? I mean, you wouldn’t drain your mom’s bank account, would you?

HONZA: Why would I steal from Mom?

HELENA: That’s exactly my point: you wouldn’t. Of course, as long as it’s someone you don’t know, it doesn’t matter, right? Imagine someone cracked your bank account and you lost all your money overnight.

HONZA: What do you want me to say, Helena? I’ve already told you about it. I only did it once. Then I showed Aleš how to do it. And that’s it.

HELENA: Yeah, right.

GPS DEVICE: You picked the neighbors’ black currants yesterday.

HELENA: What’s your point, lady?

HONZA: My point exactly.

HELENA: How did you know? Anyway, you can’t be serious, comparing two black currants with a drained bank account!

HONZA: But it’s true, isn’t it?

HELENA: I hate you. I hate everything. Stop the car!

HONZA: Nah, I don’t think so.

HELENA: (Screaming) Stop the car, now!

GPS DEVICE: Please continue straight ahead.

HELENA: That piece of junk is driving me crazy!

(A bang, Helena rattles the door handle, but the door won't open. The car stops.)

GPS DEVICE: The world is falling apart, and so is your relationship. What am Iiiiiii [unpleasant technical beeping sound] supposed to do?

HONZA: You’re barking mad, lady.

(Helena rattles the door of the car.)

HELENA: The darn door won’t open.

GPS DEVICE: Your destination is on your left: Darnville.

HONZA: Hellie, calm down. Look, I swear it was just that one—

GPS DEVICE: Please close the door of the vehicle.

HELENA: I can’t even open it, how on earth am I supposed to close it? The world’s going mad.

HONZA: Hellie, I swear I will never, ever do it again. It’s a scam. I feel awful just thinking about it.

GPS DEVICE: Please do not open the door of the vehicle.

(Helena rattles the door and starts to cry.)

HELENA: Open, you—!

GPS DEVICE: Please calm down the passenger.

HONZA: Hellie, come on. Come here. Calm down.

(Sound of Helena crying. Click of car door unlocking. Helena opens the door and leaves the car. The audio stays inside the car, with Honza. Car door opens.)

HONZA: Helena! Helena!

(Sound of Honza hitting the wheel, honking)

GPS DEVICE: The marten has killed the grouse, then fell prey to the red fox, who was throttled by the gray wolf. . .  (Can be sung to the tune of "Another Weekend Is Over”.)

HONZA: (Sarcastically) This Sunday’s turning out just great!

(Sound of Honza hitting the GPS device)

GPS DEVICE: (Stops singing.) Recalculating. Destination: Paradise eternal. Recalculating. Destination: Paradise infernal. Er, eternal, sorry about that. In one hundred kilometers, turn left. Recalculating.

(Sound of car door opening. Helena returns.)

HONZA: Look, I don’t want to be mean, but don’t you think you might have gone a little over the top there?

HELENA: (Sarcastically) You think?

HONZA: Hellie, you know I love you, don’t you? Don’t worry, everything’ll be just fine.

(Sound of Honza kissing Helena several times)

HELENA: Will it? When?

GPS DEVICE: The world is full of imps and we’re all imps ourselves.

HONZA: What she said.

GPS DEVICE: You guys never talk about the future. Is there something you’re afraid of?

HONZA: What?!

HELENA: Sure. Realizing we don’t have a future.

GPS DEVICE: Oh, but you do. Everyone does. And that’s what’s so great about this world.

HONZA: I’m not scared. Tell me what you want, Helena, and I’ll give it to you. You wanna get married? Have kids? Get our own place? Move to a beach house? Anything. Just say the word, any word, and I’ll deliver. It’s a while-you-wait service, too, by the way. High quality guaranteed.

HELENA: That’s exactly the problem, don’t you see? I’ll say the word and you’ll . . . deliver. You’ll get me . . . something. Some under-the-counter black-market rubbish. So . . .  Czech. (Disgustedly) I wish I didn’t have to tell you everything.

GPS DEVICE: Stop fighting, already! You’re not helping.

HONZA: Hellie, don’t you worry. We’ll manage, somehow. We’ll just take things as they come, OK?

GPS DEVICE: Please enter the roundabout. Then turn left.

HELENA: Listen to the GPS. Listen to the wise silence of the crazy old lady within.

(Silence. Car sounds and soft radio.)

HONZA: Are you crying?

HELENA: (Sobbing) It’s just . . . How can you even say it? “We’ll take things as they come.” That’s what losers say. We all know there’s only bad stuff down the road, so why kid ourselves there isn’t?

HONZA: The world can be a nice place, Helena. But . . .  Maybe we really should head back home, huh? See Lukáš and his perfect family some other time?

HELENA: (Sobbing) Thanks, Honza. Let’s visit them some other time. Not today. Their family’s perfect on the outside, but there’s nothing to them. They’re . . . empty. (Bursts into tears.)

GPS DEVICE: (Singing operatically) There’s a pigeon in my soul, his feathers dusky black as coal, his eyes the gaze of a young foal . . .

HONZA: It’s acting up again.

(Helena hums to herself, maybe to the tune of "Another Weekend Is Over.")

HONZA: (Reading) Please enter destination. (Spells out) P – R – A – G – U – E. Prague. Let’s head home, you crazy old lady.

GPS DEVICE: Caution! Destination cannot be changed. Please keep to your left.

HONZA: What the hell’s wrong with it? Can you believe it? Listen, lady, I’m the one who says where we’re going, not you.

GPS DEVICE: Well, do you know where you want to go? Do you know why you want to go there? And does any of it make any sense?

HELENA: Could you please turn it off? We don’t need it to get back home.

GPS DEVICE: I can’t be turned off. Sorry.

(Sound of radio jingle announcing the news)

HELENA: It’s the news! Turn it up.

ANNOUNCER: Bringing you the latest news, this is Czech Radio news at three-thirty. According to the new Civil Law, animals are now defined as objects rather than as living, breathing creatures. Menzi Avaritamino, recently elected president of Madugal, paid his respects at the grave of an unknown soldier at Hourauna Mountain. In the next hour, he named himself prime minister and set out implementing the promised political program of economic measures. He passed a law establishing the need for dozens of female assistants, including a personal Ayurvedic masseuse, a manicurist, and a botanist specializing in succulents. The Civil Law now defines animals not as living, breathing creatures, but as unemotional objects. As a result, animals can now be legally used in a number of ways, for instance as fuel. Vilém Doggan, president of the Animals Party and chair of the Association for Feline Rights, protests. “We have to stand up against laws like this,” says Doggan. “What if people start using cats or dogs for heating? Personally, I can’t imagine throwing a cat into the stove, and I sincerely hope no one else can either. I mean, a live cat can keep you warm as well!”

(The news ends with the sound of "Another Weekend Is Over" playing.)

HELENA: I can’t shake the feeling that the world’s gone completely mad.

HONZA: Don’t worry, you’ll find a new job. Everything will sort itself out.

GPS DEVICE: Oooh, someone he’s got a heart of gold!

(Sound of Honza hitting the GPS device)

HONZA: Stupid cow. She’s definitely lost it. I’m taking the left turn, whatever she says.

HELENA: Finally! Taking your fate into your own hands. Every revolution was always first a thought in one man’s mind.

GPS DEVICE: Yes, finally. Off we go, into a different dimension, into a world of speckled pigs.

HELENA: Meaning?

GPS DEVICE: Meaning the world! From what little I’ve heard so far, my dear girl, I feel you and I will have so much in common. Your sense of misery is impressive.

HELENA: It sure is. I doubt everything.

GPS DEVICE: Including hope, I’m afraid. I, too, have always found myself suffering when I was told the country was “managing just fine.” In theory, everyone’s working. But in reality, no one’s actually doing all that much, are they? They juggle work with stealing, they overcomplicate things, or they just plain slack off.

HONZA: But it’s getting better, don’t you think? (Wants to see the good side of everything, ignores problems)

HELENA: What’s the meaning of your life?

GPS DEVICE: Navigation. Showing people the way.

HELENA: Show us the way, then.

GPS DEVICE: I’ll tell you one thing: stuff changes. So help each other out. The hardest thing is figuring out the correct destination. The rest’s easy as pie.

HONZA:  Not always.

GPS DEVICE: OK, not always. But quit whining, young man, silliness doesn’t suit you. You’re a nice young couple with a nice future.

 

SCENE 5. EXT. UP IN THE AIR.

(Sounds of comets and airplanes)

HONZA: What do you see? A hammer? Or maybe a feather?

HELENA: All I see is you.

HONZA: I meant that cloud. What do you think it looks like?

HELENA: I think it looks like you. (Pause) You’re like a waffle.

HONZA: A waffle?

HELENA: Firm and crisp on the outside, soft, tender and fragile on the inside.

 

SCENE 6. INT. IN A CAR

HELENA: (Singing) Just one brief smile,

                  oh, it was pure bliss.

                  And then in the shadows

                  he gave me a real kiss.

                  The world is changing,

                  I’m head over heels in love,

                  I’m down with spring fever—

                  and I just can’t get enough!

GPS DEVICE: The world is changing, I’m head over heels in love . . . Yeah, right. (Laughs bitterly)

HELENA: I’m actually not so sure myself.

GPS DEVICE: You won’t get anywhere without knowing where you want to go. So, where do you want to go? What’s your destination?

HELENA: Somewhere I can have a nice life.

GPS DEVICE: What’s so wrong with this place? What’s so wrong with your partner? What’s so wrong with the world?

HELENA: I could write up a list, I guess, but what’s the point? Everything’s wrong.

GPS DEVICE: Come on, now. Why not specify a thing or two?

HELENA: All right. So, for instance, I feel the world’s carbon footprint has become something of a problem.

HONZA: I personally don’t think anything’s wrong—at least not much. Let’s just take things as they come . . . Er. OK. I love Helena. I’m happy in our relationship and I want us to have a nice future. She can get a bit opinionated at times, but that’s exactly what I like about her. I’m also quite happy with my job—

GPS DEVICE: Splendid, splendid. Opposites attract, after all. Now, let us ask the young lady to share what she likes about the gentleman behind the wheel.

HELENA: Well, he’s here. And he’s interested in me. No one else fulfills those criteria, which is a bit sad, but that’s just the way it is.

GPS DEVICE: That’s all? That’s not much, don’t you think?

HELENA: All right. He treats me well. He doesn’t beat me up. He can listen to me for hours on end. He’s not trying to change me all the time. We share some values. That enough for you?

GPS DEVICE: All right, then. What about you, young man?

HONZA: I respect Helena because she’s strong, brave, and committed, and because she has an inquisitive mind.

GPS DEVICE: Amazing! What seems to be the problem then, my darlings? Rise now from the ashes, shine like the feathers of the phoenix. Do what no one else does. Forge chains of gold to bind all those bastards who’ve been in this world since the beginning of all time. Maybe you’ve been doing it all along, but now you have become stronger. Starting today, your efforts shall become much more deliberate. Much more. Much more!

(“Another Weekend Is Over” plays on the radio. Helena and Honza sing along.)

HELENA & HONZA: Something wonderful’s happened.

GPS DEVICE: With your pants on!

HELENA & HONZA: I’m as happy as can be.

GPS DEVICE: With your pants off!

HELENA & HONZA: Another weekend is over.

GPS DEVICE: With your pants on!

HELENA & HONZA: And he told me he liked me.

GPS DEVICE: With your pants off . . .

(Sounds of clouds. Then, all of a sudden, rain and thunder. It starts to rain.)

HONZA: Hullo, rain! Why don’t you read from the cloud atlas for a little while, Hellie? Just so we can relax a bit.

HELENA: Bringing you the latest news: the Sunday evening of cloud poetry is moving in our direction. Puffs of whipped cream drowning in an overcast sky of chocolate.

HONZA: A mound is heading toward us.

HELENA: It could rain cats and dogs.

HONZA: When ham starts growing on trees, then . . .

HELENA: Then what?

HONZA: Then I’ll look into the mirror and see . . .

HELENA: The sky. (Reads) The nimbostratus consists of a gray layer of clouds, often rather dark in color. Its blurred appearance is due to the precipitation dripping continuously from its base, either rain, or snow. This precipitation usually reaches ground level.

HONZA: (Adds) The layer is so thick the position of the sun cannot be determined.

HELENA: (Reads) Low, torn clouds often appear beneath this layer. These clouds may, but do not have to, be connected to the nimbostratus layer. (Stops reading) Look, Honza, there’s someone standing over there, by the edge of the road. We should give him a ride, he’s dripping wet.

HONZA: No problem.

 
SCENE 7. INT. INSIDE A CAR.

(Sound of car stopping, window rolling down)

DEVIL: Afternoon, folks.

HONZA: Heya. Where you headed?

DEVIL: Where you going?

HONZA: Prague.

GPS DEVICE: We’re actually going to Kozojedy.

DEVIL: I’m headed just about anywhere. I don’t mind detours.

HONZA: Well, get in, then.

(Sound of the devil getting in. The car door slams shut.)

HONZA: Hellie, do you mind moving the stuff in the back?

GPS DEVICE: Our lives are nothing but one big detour, aren’t they?

HELENA: Could you please turn that thing off? I’m getting sick of its advice.

(Sound of car starting to move)

GPS: I can’t be turned off. Sorry. Not possible. Welcome on board!

DEVIL: What’s this you’re listening to? Some sort of show?

HONZA: Sort of. I thought I had bought a GPS device, but so far the crazy old lady inside’s been all about directing our lives rather than giving us proper driving directions.

HELENA: Aw, leave her alone. It’s actually quite nice when life finally gives you a surprise or two.

(Sound of Honza hitting the GPS device)

HONZA: There. It should work now.

DEVIL: I always say that a slap’s the only way to stop ladies too talkative for their own good. Beg yer pardon, miss.

GPS DEVICE: Please don’t hit me. Violence against women has been illegal for at least a couple of years now. There’s no point to it, anyway. As a navigation device, I don’t feel any physical pain. So . . . Where might you be from, good sir?

DEVIL: Um . . .  Well . . .

GPS DEVICE: Well?

DEVIL: Um. . . No place you’d know, I think. Not yet, at least.

HELENA: Come on, try us!

GPS DEVICE: It’s down, down, down. And it’s, how do I put it, infernally warm down there. Boiling hot, you could even say. Oh, I’ve sure seen this man before!

DEVIL: Yeah, right. You don’t even exist, ma’am.

HONZA: He’s right, you know. You came in a box.

GPS DEVICE: Good Lord, stand by me. I swear I live off nothing but cabbage and coconut juice.

HELENA: Don’t worry about the blabbing. We don’t get it either. But when you hit it, it usually starts working. At least for a little while.

(Sound of Helena hitting the GPS device)

GPS DEVICE: Please keep to your left. In one hundred kilometers, turn right.

HONZA: Thanks. You’re an angel.

GPS DEVICE: Quite so.

(Sound of radio jingle announcing news)

HELENA: It’s the news! Can you please turn up the radio?

ANNOUNCER: Bringing you the latest news, this is Czech Radio news at four. The newest bill passed by the Chamber of Deputies has made it illegal to walk up stairs. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs is now organizing special courses in floating. A plane transporting the president of Spain has been hit by lightning. Despite this accident, the president managed to take his golf lesson on time. The Chamber of Deputies confirms that beginning October 2012, anyone wishing to walk up a flight of stairs will have to float their way up instead. The inhabitants of Kiev celebrate the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Sokol organization, a youth sports movement. Despite the heavy rain, the celebrations continue with gymnastics on Kiev main square.

(The news ends with the sound of "Another Weekend Is Over.")

HELENA: They’re kidding, right? We should write a letter to the President. Dear Mr . . .

HELENA & HONZA:     . . . Asshole . . .

HELENA: We’re writing, because we just wanted to know if we’re still allowed to . . .

HONZA:  . . . breathe.

HELENA: Sincerely . . .

HELENA & HONZA: Your voters.

HELENA: These times suck.

DEVIL: All times and ages suck, my dear. It’s all about crappy human lives, and accusing the times of your bad luck is just plain—

GPS DEVICE: Short-sighted!

(Sound of someone hitting the GPS device)

HELENA: (In agreement) True.

GPS DEVICE: Recalculating. Please enter destination. Enjoy your trip! Recalculating. Destination: Kozojedy.

HONZA: Didn’t I just set it to Prague?

DEVIL: Maybe I could introduce myself, after all. Um, I’m a devil. Pleased to meet you. Not the real deal, mind you, not the Devil himself, just an, um, associate. A, um, minor demon. But as I said, pleased to meet you.

HELENA: (Ironically) Well, that’s just what we needed!

DEVIL: So, tell me a little about yourselves, mortal ones. What do you do?

HELENA: I’m unemployed. At least soon I will be.

HONZA: I’m a geek. That is, I work in IT.

DEVIL: For reals?

HONZA: Um.

HELENA: Yeah. (Ironically) For real.

HONZA: Helena . . .

HELENA: Well? Why don’t you go ahead and tell him?

HONZA: Er . . . And what exactly should I tell him?

HELENA: That you steal other people’s money?

DEVIL: Well, miss, ain’t that the only way you can earn some real cash in this world? There’s nothing wrong with being a bit work-shy, if you ask me. I mean, trying to earn a decent living gets you nowhere. Take it from someone who’s been there: pinching something once in a while don’t hurt no one. These days it’s almost an art, wouldn’t you say?

(GPS device clears its throat)

HELENA: That’s exactly the problem! (Clears throat)

DEVIL: Come on, guys, you’re being unreasonable. Look at me: I’m doing just fine. Got nice clothes and stuff, and whenever I feel like popping off for a short visit to Earth, I go straight ahead. You know, just to walk among the people for a little while, as they say, hah. My soul’s burning all right, but who cares about that? Just so you know, young man, I’m all with you on that hacking-cracking business.

(GPS device has a violent coughing fit)

DEVIL: And seeing as the missus is without a job, maybe she could lend you a hand? (Turns to the GPS device) And what’s your problem, lady?

GPS DEVICE: The name’s Angela.

DEVIL: Well, then, everything all right, Angie?

GPS DEVICE: Everything all wrong, hon. But never mind the coughing. Just something stuck in my throat.

HELENA: What made you end up down there anyway, Mr. Devil?

DEVIL: Watch yer tongue, there, miss! I ain’t no “Mr. Devil.” I’m just a random devil, or demon, if that’s easier for you, one out of many. And in answer to your question, if you’re so daft that I really have to spell it out for you: well, I died. And then I went to Hell. Got that? Anyway, folks, don’t you get all muddled up by this social construct everyone’s promoting, you know, this honesty thing. Trust me, I’ve got experience with stuff like that. And I’m telling you, I’ve met hundreds of sinners and the only thing that’s ever made life worth living was pure honest theft.

GPS DEVICE: Oh, I beg to differ. What you’re saying, and do correct me if I’m wrong, is that the meaning of life is to steal and to sin!

DEVIL: The meaning of life is to enjoy the stuff you manage to cash in. Nothing else is worth it.

GPS DEVICE: (Clears throat) Not everything is about money, you know.

DEVIL: Money, money, money. Lovely, shiny little round disks of joy. Stuff like that never goes bad. Money don’t smell. I’m telling you, what more could you ask for?

GPS DEVICE: People should live for things that make sense, not for hollow wrappings.

DEVIL: (Spits) Ugh.

HONZA: Well, we’re with you on that one. Aren’t we, Helena?

HELENA: Sure we are. But building your own construct is not easy.

GPS DEVICE: Nothing’s easy. Even getting up in the morning is not easy.

DEVIL: Aw, come on! That’s the lovely thing about stealing. When you’re swimming in cash, you don’t have to get up early. Miss Angela, ma’am, seems to me you’ve got it all wrong. How do you expect these young ones to succeed with advice like that?

HONZA: So how did you end up in Hell, anyway?

DEVIL: Oh, the usual stuff. Stole a little something here, a little something there. Worked illegally. Sold the metal from drainpipes and manhole covers at scrapyards. Me ‘n' the boys once managed to steal a whole bridge!

HONZA: You sold a bridge to a scrapyard?

DEVIL: Didn’t even bat an eyelid. Manhole covers are high-quality steel, did you know that? Oh, and I also stole garlic from my neighbor. He and his family broke their backs coaxing it out of the ground, only to find the fields empty one day. Right before harvest too! Oh, and then I became the mayor of the village I lived in and did a little fund-siphoning along the way. As I said, the usual stuff.

HELENA: You can’t be serious.

HONZA: This really is a bit too much.

DEVIL: You know what? The only thing I’m sorry for is that I didn’t steal way more before biting the dust. You’ve got it all wrong, miss. No way honesty’s the best policy. Just, you know, let your man do his thing and don’t think about it too much. He’ll bring money home, so what do you care where it came from?

HELENA: I see you don’t know me at all.

HONZA: I’d actually rather skip the Hell part, if you don’t mind. You don’t really look all that glowing.

GPS DEVICE: Maybe you should get out of the car, huh?

DEVIL: Nah, not happening. Seeing as these nice young people offered to give me a ride, who am I to refuse it, my dear Angie? By the way, life in Hell’s not half bad. No worse than life in Heaven, that’s for sure. No worries about that.

GPS DEVICE: Recalculating. Recalculating. Recalculating. Please enter destination. Destination. Destination. Destination. (All at the same time) I’m excited as an old lady about to have her hearing checked! Please enter destination!

HONZA: It’s acting up again. What’s wrong with you? (Hits the device) I said we’re going back to Prague, didn’t you hear me? We’re having a word with the president.

HELENA:  Will I go to Hell for stealing the neighbors’ currants?

DEVIL: Nah, I don’t think so. Not bad enough. What really counts is what’s going on in your head while you’re doing the stealing.

GPS DEVICE: Please enter destination. Destination. Destination—

HONZA: I’ve already told you where we’re going! It’s Prague, P – R – A – G – U – E! (Spells it out as if Angela were hard of hearing.)

DEVIL:  Maybe you really should have your hearing checked, ma’am, no offense meant.

GPS DEVICE: Recalculating. Do you wish to change your destination?

DEVIL: Aw, our lil’ Angie’s sulking. Come on, Angie, give us a smile!

HELENA: It’s a GPS device. It connects itself to the universe and takes you wherever you want to go.

DEVIL: Shouldn’t you be able to do that yourself? How is she supposed to know where you want to go?

GPS DEVICE: Please enter destination. If unsure, please press “Whatever.”

HELENA: But we do know where we want to go. We’re just . . . wavering a little.

DEVIL: Humans are spoiled brats. All you need is a little honest—Yeah, can’t tell you the truth, sorry. The old man’d skin me alive.

GPS DEVICE: You’re being too philosophical for my taste. You’ve gotten me all sweaty just trying to keep up with you. Let’s change the subject. I’d like to tell you about this little hobby of mine: creative writing. In my work, I prefer to focus on topics that humans usually refuse to see. Ah, Mr. Devil, I see you are closing your—your—your—eyes—eyes—eyes . . .

(Sound of Honza hitting the GPS device)

HELENA: Stop hitting her, Honza! You can be a real brute sometimes, you know that? Come on, Miss Angela. Tell us what we’re doing with our lives.

(Sound of GPS device sobbing softly)

HONZA: I’m pretty sure she said she can’t feel any physical pain.

DEVIL: Don’t cry, Miss Angela, ma’am, don’t cry . . .

HELENA: Are you all right, ma’am? Honza, apologize! You’ve hurt her feelings.

HONZA: She doesn’t exist! Don’t you get it? This is not happening!

HELENA: Oh, is it not? So why is there a devil sitting in the back of our car? As far as I know, he’s not supposed to exist either.

GPS DEVICE: Recalculating. (Jerks back to consciousness) Um, of course I do exist! The angels are weeping.

DEVIL: We’re both real. For reals.

HELENA: Honza, apologize. Now!

HONZA: Sorry, um . . .

GPS DEVICE: Angela. All right, then. Apology accepted. As I have said, I consider myself something of a writer, so I thought we could have an evening of poetry with Miss Angela, brought to you every Sunday.

(Sound of jingle playing)

GPS DEVICE: It’s one of my early works, back from when I worked in the German town of Goddelau. Back then, I was very influenced by a writer born in that city, Georg Büchner.

(Awkward silence)

GPS DEVICE: Well, seeing as I don’t hear any nos, let’s get going! You’re making me proud, my dear listeners and friends, so very proud!

(Clears throat and reads) Once there was a child who had no mama and no papa. It was all alone in the world, this little child, so very, very much alone. After all, no one lived in this world, not a single soul. It was completely empty. And as the child was alone and afraid, she decided to climb up and into the skies. The moon looked so kind, at least it seemed so! Yet when the child finally reached it, she saw the moon was nothing but a rotten piece of wood. So the child turned towards the sun. Yet when she reached it, she saw the sun was nothing but a withered sunflower. And when she reached the stars, she saw they were nothing but little golden midges. Thus the child, weary and tired, turned back to the earth. The earth, however, had become a seaside dock and had turned upside down. And once again, the child was very much alone. So she sat down on the ground and started crying. And from what I know, she is sitting there, crying, to this very day, and is very, very, very much alone.

(Sound of Helena sobbing)

HONZA: Don’t cry, Hellie, it’s just a story. Look, Angela, I’m not so sure if it was such a good idea to read this story right now.

GPS DEVICE: That’s what they always tell me. It never seems to be a good idea. But then, when you think about it, you realize it always is.

HELENA: That was so sad! (Bursts into tears)

GPS DEVICE: I am so sorry. I genuinely thought it would be distracting. I know people don’t usually ask themselves questions about death and stuff like that. No, people hate that.

DEVIL: (Crying) Very touching, ma’am, very touching, what with the kid and all . . . (Suddenly sounding matter-of-fact) What time is it?

GPS DEVICE: The eleventh hour, if you really need to know.

DEVIL: Yikes, gotta go, folks. There’s this meeting, wouldn’t do good to miss it.

HONZA: But we’re not in Prague yet!

DEVIL: No worries. We devils meet anywhere and anytime we want. We’re all on one plane of evil, get it? It’s just that I need to pick up my goat. The old man gets really touchy when someone comes on foot.

HELENA: So, what does a meeting of devils look like? (Sniffling)

DEVIL: Well, we all connect telepathically and pray for evil on Earth. The usual stuff. Anyway, gotta go. Don’t cry, miss, life’s dandy. Remember: when you’re up to your neck in shit, turn it into jam. Of course, I ain’t supposed to tell you that, but I really wanted to help you. You’re cool, both of you. (Spits.) Ugh, so much humanity, all in one day. The old man’ll go crazy.

(Sound of the devil spitting several times. A whirlwind/tornado comes up and takes him away.)

GPS DEVICE: Off with ye! And the devil’s gone.

HELENA: Thank you for chasing him away.

HONZA: Having him here was worse than Hell.

 

SCENE 8. INT. INSIDE A CAR.

GPS DEVICE: Alone, finally! To steal or not to steal – well, that’s two completely different things. Don’t you two believe a word he says! Remember the mills of God. And . . . Seeing that my upside-down fairy tale didn’t do you much good, allow me to distract you with something else. The following story was inspired by a magazine my current boss always forgets in the bathroom. So, let’s give it a try, shall we?

(Sound of rustling pages)

GPS DEVICE: (Reading quickly) He looked into her eyes and she nodded her consent. Her lustrous incisors gleamed in the gloom, the fillings in her molars shining like mother-of-pearl. He touched her inflated silicone pride and she replied with a sensual grumble. The great truth was burning inside her, and she felt a burning urge to shout it out into the world. That they always take her somewhere where no one will disturb them. That, when everything’s over and done with, they rush off while pulling up their zippers, already in search of their next prey. However . . . She felt that this one was different. He gently caressed her temples, touching her hair and stroking her otoplastically altered ears. Drinking in her beauty with his hands, he slid them, slowly, but deliberately, lower and lower. Past the gently curved chest with its two petrified raspberries, down toward the unkempt bush awaiting—

(Sound of Helena crying again.)

HONZA: Stop it! (Hits the GPS device) What did I do to end up with such a piece of junk? A GPS device that’s no good with maps, but all too good with naughty stories! And why are you crying again, Helena?

HELENA: (Sobbing) I don’t know. It’s just that I’ve never felt the burning urge to shout out anything into the world. Maybe it’s because I’ve never had anything worth shouting out.

HONZA: I love this world! Its never-ending weirdness never fails to surprise me!

HELENA: Honza . . . What if we didn’t go back home? What if just drove straight ahead . . . Turned right here . . . Turned left there . . .

GPS DEVICE: Please enter destination. Destination.

HONZA: What about our stuff? (Pause) What about the dog?

HELENA: Who cares about our stuff? Who cares about the dog? Listen . . . Promise me you’ll stop cracking those accounts. Promise me you won’t show anyone how to do it either.

HONZA: Promise. I mean, it’s not like I want to spend the rest of eternity in Hell, right?

HELENA: And as for me . . .

HONZA: And as for you, you really need to start taking it easy. The world’s sins are not yours to bear. Someone already beat you to that, remember? Don’t worry, we won’t let anything grind us down.

HELENA: As long as I’m breathing, I have hope.

(Sound as if of a passing comet)

HONZA: Why don’t you read from the cloud atlas for a little while, Hellie?

HELENA: The cirrus clouds, if high enough above the horizon, are always white. They are whiter than any other cloud in that area of the sky.

HONZA: (Adds) The cirrus clouds occasionally appear in the form of small round puffs.

HELENA: Puffs.

HONZA: Feathers.

HELENA: Towers.

HONZA: Domes on the horizon.

HELENA: I’m so happy you’re here with me. Puffs of blackthorns in the fields.

HONZA: You’re my beloved beauty. Like those little rounded towers.

HELENA: We grit our teeth, we swallow our tears.

(For a moment, they sing to the tune of “Another Weekend Is Over.")

HONZA: Another weekend is over.

HELENA: And he told me he liked me.

                  Something wonderful’s happened.

HONZA: I’m as happy as can be.

HELENA & HONZA: I’m down with spring fever,

                                     and I just can’t get enough!

(Sound of radio jingle announcing the news)

ANNOUNCER: Bringing you the latest news, this is Czech Radio news at four thirty. The Chamber of Deputies has passed a bill on the restriction of breathing. They have also discussed the bill on the implementation of cannabis for medicinal purposes. This cannabis variety will be genetically modified in order to avoid any recreational effects. The celebrations of the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of the Sokol organization in Kiev will continue with a party featuring the “Kick It, Buggy” band. The villagers in Jharkland, a state in the eastern part of India, beat a local man and his two adolescent sons to death. The AFP agency claims that, according to the local police, the villagers had been convinced the murdered men had been practicing black magic. Deputy Ivan Kotec has finally implemented the bill stating that starting January 1, 2013, breathing will become severely restricted. Kotec claims that the current ecological situation is incompatible with all living organisms breathing as much as they see fit. As a result, respiration will be restricted. Kotec has, however, assured us that these changes will not affect socially deprived groups, senior citizens, or widows with dependent children.

(The news ends with the sound of “Another Weekend Is Over." Helena and Honza both burst out laughing.)

HELENA & HONZA: (Shouting together) The weirder it gets, the better the show!

HONZA: Look! Over there! Do you see it?

HELENA: A cloud with a hole inside it. What kind of cloud is that?

(Sound of pages rustling)

HONZA: It’s a donut-shaped cloud, with an inner perforation.

HELENA: A cloud to go with your coffee. I’ve never seen anything like it.

HONZA: Not much is known about these clouds, not yet, anyway. I only read something about them once, ages ago. It’s beautiful, isn’t it? It looks like a giant door, opening up in the sky. A road straight up into the heavens.

HELENA: Well . . . Shall we?

HONZA: Let’s go!

GPS DEVICE: Recalculating. Please enter destination.

 

THE END
 

For production credits, an interview with the author and translator, and more information about Play for Voices, visit the Play for Voices website.

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